I don't mean to offend, but over and over again, I have made the observation that life-long, brought-up-in-Christian-families Christians can be quite...sheltered. I suppose that isn't all too surprising. If someone was brought up in a Christian family, grew up in church, had lots of Christian friends from cell group and conferences, maybe even went to a Christian school, they would have lived their life in a pleasant little Christian bubble where most people shared their values and beliefs. Which is fine and dandy, and I'm sure is great for growing their faith.
However, the real trouble starts once they are exposed to the 'real world', where there are numerous people of different religions and atheists and agnostics and people who are against religion in general. This is probably quite jarring for someone who had never been exposed to people like these. They are quite often horrified by many things, and their tolerance for being horrified can range from a boy and a girl being alone in the same room together to premarital sex with multiple partners. "Don't they know it's wrong!" they exclaim, quite distressed. "How can they do things like that!" The thing is, if you ask the people who practise these things, it isn't wrong. Let me explain why.
For someone who was raised outside of the Christian faith, their morals and values would largely have been shaped by their upbringing and society. With regards to upbringing, I have been told that church attendance today (as a percentage of the Australian population) is but a fraction of what it was decades ago. More and more people are atheist or agnostic, and fewer people identify as Christian. As a result, people's upbringing may not have been guided by the same values as a Christian family's. With regards to society, it's not news to anyone that we're heading in a direction away from Christianity, or indeed religion in general. Many things that are okayed or even promoted by society today are against what is written in the Bible. If someone lives their entire life being told by people around them that certain things are good, then as far as they're concerned, those things are good. Why would they think or believe otherwise?
This then brings into question the task of explaining the Christian view to them. A noble task, as it is an extremely difficult one. Fortunately or unfortunately, I think most sheltered Christians don't realise just how difficult it is, and they seem to be particularly bad at it. I've had these sorts of conversations with non-Christian friends, as well as observed such conversations between others, and have made notes on things you should never do. These include:
- Only speaking and never listening
Communication should be two-way. You're not preaching -- you're there to listen to their point of view as well as express yours.
- Disregard their point of view because it's 'wrong'
Never, never, never do this. It's disrespectful and counterproductive. If you're hoping for them to have an open mind and listen to what you have to say, you should do the same for them.
- Use Christian jargon
This is a fault many well-read Christians possess. Non-Christians aren't going to really understand what you mean when you use language like 'slaves to Christ' or 'God's design'. At best, it will sound floofy; at worst, it will put them off completely. Using Christian jargon with non-Christians is kind of like trying to explain the colour pink to a blind person by saying "It's like red, but a little whiter" -- it just isn't going to work.
However, before you even begin having these discussions with non-Christians, you should take note of the way you view them. This brings me back to what I was saying earlier about people newly emerged from the Christian bubble. You cannot be horrified by the actions or beliefs of non-Christians, or the way they are. You should not expect them to uphold the same values you do, as they may not even be aware of them. You should not view them as bad or evil, and you definitely should not talk down to them. After all, aren't we all sinful? Isn't all sin equal in God's eyes? It crossed my mind the other day that there is possibly no one as acutely aware of their own flaws as a devout Christian. We have all sinned and we have all had evil thoughts, because we are only human. I think it's important to remember that.
I've never blogged about anything to do with Christianity, because I've always felt like I knew too little about it to have anything worth writing about. However, the recent goings-on in Australia have allowed me to observe a fair few debates between people of different beliefs, and these sometimes turned quite ugly. I felt that I had something to say about it, and spent a fair while working on this post. This wasn't meant to offend in any way; I only aim to facilitate better communication and discussions, and hopefully encourage some self-refection.
Feel free to let me know what you think, or even call me out on things I've said that you don't agree with. Some healthy discussion is always good, and I'd love to know your thoughts on this. Thanks for reading!